Utilizing RFIs in the ERP Selection Process

RFI in the ERP selection processLately, our sales team specialists at IQMS have received an influx of RFIs as part of the ERP selection process. An exercise in due diligence, we appreciate the benefits that an RFI can offer companies looking to narrow the field of vendors. So what is an RFI and how can it aid your ERP selection?

RFI stands for Request for Information. It should not be confused with an RFP (Request for Proposal) or an RFQ (Request for Quote). An RFI is a document sent to potential vendors as a pre-qualifier to filter out ill-suited ERP software providers. Well-designed RFIs are utilized specifically to help assemble a short list of potential vendors for consideration. RFIs usually consist of background and information about your company, some brief information about your ERP selection process plan, and most importantly, pertinent questions for comparison.

The Benefits of RFIs Include:

  • A comparative way to see the similarities and differences between ERP vendors
  • Narrowing down a long list of vendors to a short list to invite in for presentations
  • Helping the ERP vendor assess if they are a feasible solution for your needs

While RFIs can be beneficial, they can also muddy the water of the selection process. If companies are simply downloading a generic RFI off the Internet or receiving one from their consultant that doesn’t really match their business, then sending it off to all the vendors without regard to the content can actually hurt the process.

Sometimes the RFIs we receive at IQMS are incredibly vague. The questions don’t really consider the specific requirements of the manufacturer or can be interpreted multiple ways, making the comparison ineffective. If you send out a vague and fuzzy RFI that doesn’t address your critical requirements, then you might actually short list companies that do not meet your needs. Here is where your business process blueprinting will come in handy. By first understanding what tools and features you need to succeed will help you design questions that turn the RFI into an excellent comparison tool.

Alternately, sometimes the RFIs we receive are very long and overly involved and contain requirements that the company does not even have. The point of an RFI is for comparison with other ERP vendors in order to narrow the list down. It is not to learn every itty-bitty, tiny detail of the organization. That in-depth research occurs when you have narrowed it down to your top competitors and are working on RFPs. Before you send off a monster questionnaire, ask yourself, “What are you truly trying to compare? What purpose do these questions serve? Will this truly allow me to select the most appropriate supplier?”

If you are using a script for the sales demo then this should mimic your targeted RFI. Too often, an IQMS sales specialist starts a presentation for a potential client and begins to address every item in the prospect’s script/RFI, only to have the team say, “Oh, you can skip No. 3, that one doesn’t apply to us. You can skip Nos. 6 and 7 too, those aren’t applicable to our business either.” Often times both parties feel frustrated when this happens because it is a waste of our time and yours. Applicable, business-specific RFIs and scripts help us help you.

RFIs and demo scripts are an excellent tool in the ERP selection process. But don’t short change yourself by using a vague or overly complex RFI/script, both of which make comparison difficult. Your business is specific, take the time to make the RFI and script specific and meaningful to your unique requirements. The time invested in this first step will result in well-qualified, appropriate matches on your short list for consideration and ensure your ERP selection process gets off on the right foot.

Glenn Nowak, IQMS Vice President of Sales, has more than 25 years of experience in software and business management. His broad background and problem solving skills have increased IQMS’ annual profits by double digits every year. Prior to joining IQMS, Glenn worked in consulting for various companies including Weston Solutions and Ogden Consulting working on a wide range of projects including operations and business management.